Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston, SC

Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers with Armand Derfner, Thurs., June 29, 6 pm

Join us Thurs., June 29, 6 pm as local lawyer Armand Derfner will talk about his pivotal role in the American Civil Rights Movement. Beginning with his work representing disenfranchised voters in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1968, Armand was among the first lawyers to argue cases involving the Voting Rights Act. An essay based on these experiences has been included in a new book called Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers: Reflections from the Deep South 1964-1980 (University of Florida Press, hb., 440 pp., $45).

Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers offers eyewitness accounts of some of the most dramatic moments in civil rights history–the 1965 Selma March, the first civil judgment against the Ku Klux Klan, the creation of ballot access for African Americans in Alabama, and the 1968 Democratic Convention. The narratives depict attorney-client relationships extraordinary in their mutual trust and commitment to risk-taking. White and black, male and female, northern and southern, these recruits in the battle for freedom helped shape a critical chapter of American history.

Armand shaped the Voting Rights Act through his Supreme Court arguments in several of the earliest cases, including Allen v. State Board of Elections (1969) and Perkins v. Matthews (1971). He has testified before the Judiciary Committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about extensions of the Voting Rights Act, as well as other pro bono legislation. With his late wife, Mary Frances Derfner, he assisted in passage of the Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fees Awards Act of 1976, as well as the Equal Access to Justice Act of 1980. For more than 20 years, he has represented litigants in two long-running suits to desegregate and end racial inequality in the higher education systems of Alabama (Knight v. Alabama) and Mississippi (Ayers v. Fordice). He is now a founding partner at Derfner and Altman, here in Charleston.

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